RUN, don’t walk, to RUN conference in Chicago April 26

April 12, 2013

Are you a passenger-rail activist?

Do you want to see more trains to more places?

Do you want to see legislators start funding rail the way they fund highways and civil aviation?

Or are you just an activist wannabe who’d like to get more active but doesn’t know how?

No matter what your level of involvement, Chicago is the place for you to be April 26.

That’s when the Rail Users Network (RUN) will be holding its annual conference from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Environmental Law & Policy Center offices at 35 E. Wacker Drive.

Founded in Boston in 2001, RUN started out as an East Coast organization but became national in scope as members realized that cities and states across the nation needed rail solutions as robust as those in the Northeast Corridor.

RUN also became the nation’s only “full-service” rail advocacy group, supporting not just intercity rail travel of the type furnished by Amtrak but commuter rail and urban rail solutions such as rapid transit, light rail and conventional streetcar service as well

“We are impartial with regard to specific rail technologies,” said RUN founder and President Richard Rudolph. “In the intercity corridor arena we advocate advanced electrified high-speed rail technologies where appropriate and diesel-powered 110-mph and 79-mph corridor services in situations where those solutions show the most merit.
We support whatever passenger-rail solution meets people’s needs, including commuter trains and overnight long-distance trains, both of which fill important niches that no other travel technology has successfully addressed.”

Speakers scheduled to appear at the RUN conference are headed by DePaul University Prof. Joseph Schwieterman, who also directs the Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Studies and is the author of a highly esteemed monograph, “When the Railroad Leaves Town”. The book inventories the economic and social consequences in each American community that lost its railroad service.

Schwieterman also directs the annual Chaddick study of on-board technology use, which for five years has documented a growing preference for train travel among people who want to stay electronically connected while traveling.

Amtrak Regional Media Relations Mgr. Marc Magliari will update the group on the national rail carrier’s services operating out of the Chicago Hub, and Steve Hands of the Chicago Transit Authority will explain how planning and policy are developed at that agency.

Corridor Capital Chairman James E. Coston will chair a panel examining recent success stories in Midwestern rail, including Michigan’s current project to open a continuous 229-mile stretch of 110-mph track on its Chicago-Detroit route. Also speaking will be Midwest High Speed Rail Ass’n. Exec. Dir. Richard Harnish and a representative from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Transit Authority.

In addition to track upgrades and new light-rail lines, the Midwest is about to open two new Amtrak corridor routes. Paul Rumler, executive director of the Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition, will update the conference on the two new Chicago-Moline round trips set to debut in 2015, while Rockford Metro Agency for Planning Dir. Steve Ernst will talk about the new daily round trip that will link Chicago with Rockford, Freeport, Galena and Dubuque, Ia.

Those interested in rail advocacy will have two panels. The first, “How Rail Advocacy Can Bring Different Segments of the Community Together,” will include Kevin Brubaker of Chicago’s Environmental Law & Policy Center; Steve Hastalis of the National Federation of the Blind; and Peter Skosey, executive vice-president of Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council.

The second panel, “How Better Advocacy Can Prevent Service Cuts and Improve Existing Services,” will include Corridor Capital Communications Dir. F.K. Plous, Brenna Conway of Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance, and Claudia Ayala, public transit coordinator of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

The conference also includes optional tours of Chicago’s rail-transit systems, including a Metra Electric train expedition to south-suburban Blue Island, a return to the Loop on a Metra Rock Island train, and rides around the Loop on a Chicago Transit Authority elevated rapid-transit train. All of the tours will take place on Saturday, April 17.

“The RUN conference is an ideal opportunity for Midwestern rail advocates to update themselves on the progress the region has been making in developing modern rail solutions to serious travel and mobility problems,” Rudolph said.

“But it’s also a great opportunity to view the full slate of transportation challenges the Midwest faces and to learn how advocates can address them. This is a practical conference that will arm rail advocates with the evidence and arguments all of us will need to make sure passenger-rail and rail-transit get the political sponsorship, media endorsement and budgets they need.”

The conference registration fee is $65 until the day of the conference. Admission at the door is $75. Applicants can register and pay on line at the Rail Users’ Network Web site, http://railusers.net/index.php?link=conference. Admission includes conference materials, continental breakfast, a hearty lunch and am/pm coffee breaks. To enroll by mail send a check made out to RUN to 55 River Road, Steep Falls, ME. 04085

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